Indonesia: Women reject polygamy, choosing divorce

The Jakarta Post
An increasing number of Muslim women are choosing to divorce their husbands rather than continue in a polygamous marriage, data from national Islamic courts show.
The courts recorded that in 2006 there were nearly 1000 cases of divorce resulting from wives’ disagreeing with their husbands marrying another woman, an increase from figures in prior years.
Director General for Islamic guidance at the Ministry for Religious Affairs Nasaruddin Umar said Sunday he believed the number of divorce cases linked to disputes over polygamous marriages increased again in 2008 and would continue to rise throughout 2009. “There has been a significant increase in divorce because women have been rejecting polygamy in recent years,” he said.

Muslim scholar Siti Musdah Mulia said the data indicated Muslim women were becoming increasingly aware of their rights and also more economically independent. “The data shows women are now daring to fight for their rights and reject male domination. They are now saying, 'What is the point in continuing a marriage when I am miserable'", she said.

Siti, a lecturer at the State Islamic University in Jakarta, said women were becoming more independent and educated, two factors leading to a greater sense of worth and place. She said Muslim women were becoming increasingly aware of their rights and potential through the tireless efforts of NGOs and women activists who have launched campaigns against polygamy. “This is a good sign. Efforts by organizations to raise awareness surrounding women's rights has begun to pay off, even with discussions surrounding polygamy seeing a revival among Muslims with the release of the movie Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love),” said Legislator Nursyahbani Katjasungkana of the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Verses of Love, a film about the conditions experienced by women in polygamous relationships, was one of Indonesia's blockbuster films last year. Along with millions who flocked to see it, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also made prominent appearances at cinemas to see the flick. Many high-ranking officials praised the film while activists accused it of acting as propaganda encouraging polygamy.

Meanwhile, polygamy is on the rise across Indonesia. The Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women's Association for Justice (LBH APIK) received 87 reports of polygamy last year, up from 16 in 2007.

02 February 2009

By: Abdul Khalik